Thursday, December 13, 2012
All Signs Point To: NOW
"The habit of exiting, of escaping into thoughts and daydreams is a common occurrence. In fact, fantasy is where we spend most of our time. The Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck called these flights of fancy "the substitute life."
Of course, we don't have to be meditating for the mind to wander off to this substitute life. We can be listening to someone talking and mentally just depart. The person is right in front of us, but we're on the beach at Waikiki. The main way we depart is by keeping up a running internal commentary on what's going and what we're feeling 'like this, I don't like that, I"m hot, I'm cold', and so on. In fact, we can become so caught up in this internal dialogue that the people around us become invisible. An important part of meditation practice, therefore, is to non-aggressively drop that ongoing conversation in our head and joyfully come back to the present, being present in the body, being present in the mind, not envisioning the future or reliving the past, but, if only briefly, showing up for this very moment."
(From Pema's book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change.)
Everywhere I look, it seems that I am being sent these messages: Stay In Today. Be present. Listen. Meditate More and Think Less. I am so guilty of this "substitute life" thinking. I've also heard it called "rehearsing" - having escapist, fantasy dialogs in my head about what might be said sometime in the future. I am really beginning to see how pervasive it is in my life. I mean, having a good internal dialog with YOURSELF is empowering and uplifting and can be very motivational. Having an internal dialog with someone else is like punching a ticket to Obsessiveville.
I was thinking just yesterday about all the important communication lessons I learned in improv class - and it addressed this very thing - eliminating that internal commentary and to be present and not to anticipate what is being said or to be too busy formulating a response. I think increasing my meditation/mindfulness practice is a way to exercise my S.I.T. muscles, so I will be looking at practical ways to increase those areas in my life.
On a completely different note, I don't remember the last time I weighed. It has been months since I weighed with the idea of knowing what that number is. I've never gone this long in my LIFE without weighing and I think I'm going to stretch this out to the first of the year. Or maybe the last? Or maybe not at all.
Take good care of yourself. Be kind to others. There is no substitute for this life.